Joel didn’t want to ride out to Starved Rock Bluffs, let alone climb them, but Tony wouldn’t leave him alone. He talked his dad into giving him permission, hoping the whole time that he wouldn’t succeed. But his dad said yes, and the boys set off on their bikes, and Tony stopped at the bridge over the river. Tony went into the river. And Tony never came out.
Guilt is eating Joel alive. When his parents–and when Tony’s parents–start asking questions, Joel avoids them. But he can still smell the stink of the river on his skin. He can still remember the dare he called out to Tony: “You’re the one who’s scared. I bet you wouldn’t even swim to that sandbar out there.”
On My Honor was recommended to me by a couple sixth grade girls, but I didn’t care for it, even though it won Newbery honors. The prose is beautiful, the thoughts deep, but it was too depressing for my tastes. The book is extremely short with a singular, gut-wrenching focus that, in my opinion, eclipses the story.
In the end, Joel’s dad tells him, “You can’t live your life by maybes,” which is pretty good advice. But his final words are downright hopeless. “I don’t suppose anybody knows what happens after. I believe there’s something about life that goes on. It seems too good to end in a river.”
How bleak! I don’t enjoy this sort of melancholy, and I could certainly find a more comforting choice if it became necessary to broach this subject with my kids.